undergraduate section

Beyond First-Year Composition

The Composition Program offers a range of intermediate and advanced courses that are ideal for undergraduates who want to develop their ability to write prose, prepare to teach, or improve their ability to compose in traditional or digital media. Our courses explore expository writing, style, pedagogy, rhetoric, digital media, and more.

Below are sample course descriptions for regularly offered courses. Since course descriptions may change from term to term, check the Dietrich School course descriptions for the term when you are registering.

Intermediate Courses

ENGCMP/HAA 0425: Digital Humanity

How have computational devices affected the way we think about our own humanity? This course prepares students to critically examine the intersections between digital devices and human life. Covering topics such as the relationship between computers and humans, surveillance, big data, and interactivity and games, we question what it means to be human in a space of pervasive digitality. Assessment will be based on regular online posts, midterm examination, a final curation project, and class participation, both digital and face-to-face. The course fills the Philosophy General Education requirement and meets three times per week: twice for lecture, once for recitation/lab.

ENGCMP 0440 Critical Writing

This course is designed to help students improve as critical writers by becoming more observant and discriminating evaluators of the ways in which they and others use language to interpret and judge the world. Students will be asked to reflect upon the behavior of critics they have encountered in order to define what they believe as a critical writer, at her or his best, should do. They will then be asked to test, and perhaps refine, their definitions through work with some texts and topics selected by the group as well as through close analysis of writing samples provided by the instructor. The course is discussion-based, and class members' writing will be its steady concern.

ENGCMP 0450 Research Writing

This course explores the skills needed for good research writing and the different forms of research writing that a college graduate may encounter. While the course will give attention to methods of library and Internet research and citation, it will focus on the challenge of reporting on research, starting with the evaluation, summation, and outlining of sources, then broadening as the term progresses into an examination of different kinds of researched writing, including the personal philosophy statements required in many graduate and professional school applications. Much of the class time will be devoted to workshop discussions of student projects and the writing that results from individual research. Students should expect to write a 10-page final project; in addition, the class will work together on a series of research assignments that will be used to illustrate methods and sources of research materials.

ENGCMP 0500 Topics in Composition

This course provides a space for faculty to identify a particular topic in composition on which to base a semester of inquiry.

ENGCMP 0560 Writing Arguments

This course has two goals: to help students become more adept at understanding and critically analyzing arguments, and to help students become better arguers themselves. Students in “Writing Arguments” will practice composing arguments across a variety of forms, genres, and technologies (written, visual, oral, digital) in order to develop and hone their persuasive language skills. As part of this practice, students will have the opportunity to design and participate in written and oral debates on topics of present interest and to compose their own examples of public persuasive communication. 

Advanced Courses

ENGCMP 0610 Composing Digital Media

This course requires students to compose digital media while exploring the rhetorical, poetic, and political implications of multiple writing platforms. Students will learn how to compose a range of critical media objects using web-authoring languages, text, sound, images, and video in proprietary and open-source software. Classes will focus on theories of writing, composing, design, critique, delivery, and networked distributions; critique and analysis of digital media produced by professional and amateur digital media practitioners; and analysis and revisions of digital media composed by the students themselves.

ENGCMP 0620 Theories of Writing and Teaching

This course explores theoretical and practical questions regarding how we understand the practice of writing and how we teach it. Thus the goal of the course will be for students to engage various debates regarding literacy theories and experiment with different approaches to literacy instruction. The work of the class will be analytical, inventive, and experimental, as students will have the opportunity not only to study literacy theories and pedagogues but also to create imaginative responses to these theories by considering how teachers might translate theoretical understandings about literacy into classroom practice.

ENGCMP 0641 Writing for Change

This course is an opportunity for students to examine and produce writing that engages in advocacy, solidarity, social critique, and/or social justice. Students will explore theories of persuasive writing for public audiences, as well as argumentative strategies more broadly. Students will define the subject of a core project for the term, and move beyond understanding an issue to understanding various discourse communities that generate writing on that topic, how those organizations represent themselves, and how they define an audience. Our theoretical discussion will be balanced by a more pragmatic look at the language of social change, and how various writing forms—produced by nonprofits, activist groups, international organizations and coalitions, as well as socially engaged journalism—inform, persuade, and engage the public. Students can expect to compose traditional essays as well as tweets, blog posts, audio projects, and other forms.

ENGCMP 1200 Advanced Topics in Composition

This course provides a space for faculty to identify a particular topic in composition on which to base a semester of inquiry for advanced students.

ENGCMP 1210 Tutoring Peer Writers

This course prepares students to be effective tutors for peer writers by introducing them to issues and scholarship in teaching, writing and working as a tutor. Students from any discipline who are interested in careers in teaching, or students who recognize the importance and difficulty of responding well to drafts written by others will find this course of interest. The course is a prerequisite for those students wishing to work as peer interns in the Writing Center.

ENGCMP 1220 The Art of the Essay

Essay can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, an essay can be a short piece of writing; as a verb, to essay is to try, to weigh, to ascertain, to test the quality of. This semester we’ll explore the different ways people essay through their representations of the world through art, history, writing, music, film, and archives. We’ll examine how the creators of these works convey their individual perspectives and investigate how private or personal narratives can be used to reveal larger societal or cultural issues. Through reading and writing we’ll answer the following questions: How do essays differ from memoir? What role do individual voices play in shaping collective histories? How do our present desires sculpt stories of the past and future? Where do the truths you’ve been taught diverge from what you actually see?

ENGCMP 1510 Writing with Style

Designed with the writer in mind, this advanced-level, workshop-style course explores the sentence in its many forms and seeks to deepen students' understanding of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and style as opportunities for creative endeavor. Through the use of imaginative exercises, revisions, and discussion of texts written by students, poets, and essayists, we will immerse ourselves in the practice of writing compelling sentences that best express our thoughts and motives. The course involves a weekly workshop of works-in-progress and the creation of a chapter-length (20-25 pages) prose revisionary project by the end of semester.

ENGCMP 1551 History and Politics of the English Language

This course introduces students to the issues associated with the teaching of English language with special attention to instruction at the K-12 level. Topics include language acquisition and development, standard and non-standard dialects, and issues of composing and analyzing language. A primary consideration of the course is the way historical and cultural forces influence the teaching of English and shape evaluations of what constitutes "correct" and "literate" uses of language. The course can be used to fill teacher certification requirements

ENGCMP 1552 Language, Literacy, and Learning (formerly The Uses of Literacy)

Most of us probably assume that literacy is necessary in order to live a productive and happy life in the modern world. Learning how to read and write is "basic," right? But what is meant by writing and reading? What behaviors, knowledges, technological know-how, or skills are or have been included within those terms? And in what sense "necessary"--for whom or in what ways? What use, in other words, has been made of literacy and what values have been assigned to such use in personal, social, political and historical terms? What's literacy good for? In this course we will consider multiple literacies as complex social practices that vary according to time and place-- contested literacies, only some of which are or have been typically acquired through formal schooling. Our aim will be to challenge commonplace assumptions about the "proper" uses and values of literacy in order to think creatively and productively about educational, political, and personal alternatives. This course is designed especially for students planning on careers in teaching-related fields. Watch a short video about this course.

ENGCMP 1901 UTA in Teaching and Tutoring Writing

Students who wish to serve as Undergraduate Teaching Assistants for a Composition class can confer with a teacher, create a plan for serving as a UTA, and, with the teacher's permission, register for 1 to 3 credits to assist with an undergraduate course. Note that all UTAs must comply with the Dietrich School's guidelines for undergraduate teaching.